Research: Warm Nighttime Temperatures Pose Greatest Risk
It’s not as viscerally terrifying as a tornado, hurricane or flood, but excessive heat is a bigger killer than all three. In the last 6 decades the number of annual heat waves in 50 US cities has, on average, tripled.
I was working in Chicago in 1995 when a sudden “heat storm” sent the heat index to 120F. Over the span of 5 days 739 people died from the heat, many of them elderly poor residents without A/C, many afraid to open their winds for fear of crime.
Research suggests that steamy nights are the main culprit. If urban temperatures remain in the 70s and 80s, people simply can’t recover. Predicted highs make news, but it’s the sultry nights that cause most of the health-related problems.
Chasing Cyclones from Space. Eos.org has a fascinating post about advances in satellite technology: “…Obtaining SAR observations over the eye of a tropical cyclone using the Sentinel-1 and RADARSAT-2 systems requires some luck. Unlike weather satellites in geostationary orbit (e.g., GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite), Himawari, and Meteosat), which can image an entire hemisphere continuously every 10–15 minutes, satellite-based SAR instruments acquire data with a limited footprint. Also, they acquire data during only about 30% of every orbit because of the radar’s power requirements and because of the large data volume that must be downlinked. Further, SAR data collections must be programmed 3–5 days in advance. Collection opportunities are identified by comparing forecast storm tracks against possible SAR time or spatial footprints. In addition, Sentinel-1, as part of its daily standard collection pattern, sometimes fortuitously acquires imagery over tropical systems before explicit planning is enacted…”
Hurricane Season is Forecast to be Above Average. So are the Hurricane Forecasts. NHC continues to improve, especially with hurricane track predictions. Forecasting intensity is a trickier beast, according to a good analysis as CNN.com: “…Forecasting a storm’s intensity is a “second-order problem,” Cangialosi pointed out. That means it depends upon the track. “If you get the track wrong, you can get the intensity wrong simply because you thought the storm was going to be in a different place and in a different environment,” he said. Additionally, knowing the intensity depends on the wind, moisture and temperature patterns over the core and the storm’s environment. It also depends on internal processes, such as the strengthening that occurs when the eye of the storm reforms suddenly. That action can’t be forecast with much accuracy. Yet, something interesting has happened in recent years. The average three-day intensity error from 1970 to 2009 was about 20 knots (23 mph). Since 2010, that too has been nearly cut in half...”
Researchers Examine “Godzilla” – The Record-Shattering 2020 Trans-Atlantic Dust Storm. SciTechDaily has details I haven’t seen before; here’s the intro: “For two weeks in June 2020, a massive dust plume from Saharan Africa crept westward across the Atlantic, blanketing the Caribbean and Gulf Coast states in the U.S. The dust storm was so strong, it earned the nickname “Godzilla.” Now, researchers from the University of Kansas have published a new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society parsing the mechanism that transported the dust. Their results explain a phenomenon that could occur more frequently in the years ahead due to climate change, affecting human health and transportation systems. African dust darkened the skies of the Caribbean and American Gulf States thanks to a trio of atmospheric patterns, according to the study…”
Tornadoes Caused No Deaths in U.S. in May – For the First Time in 7 Years. A debilitating drought emerging over the Great Plains may be one big reason. The Weather Channel explains: “May, typically the busiest month for tornadoes in the continental United States, saw a slightly above average number of twisters this year. But for the first time in seven years, none of those tornadoes caused a single death, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. Most of the deaths during severe weather last month were attributed to falling trees caused by strong winds or to flooding. Based on preliminary reports, 289 tornadoes were reported last month, according to Matthew Elliott, the Storm Prediction Center’s warning coordination meteorologist. For the past 21 years, May has averaged 283 tornadoes, he said…”
Arkansas May Be Part of New “Tornado Alley”. There may be a meteorological reason for the apparent eastward shift. Here’s an excerpt from a post a magnoliareporter.com: “…But some scientists have noticed a recent eastern shift in that pattern, possibly placing parts of Arkansas in the bull’s eye of more destructive storms, along with Alabama, Mississippi and western Tennessee. While tornadoes are still abundant on the Plains, meteorologists have recorded an increase in the number and intensity of twisters in an area some refer to as “Dixie Alley.” Victor Gensini, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University, authored a paper about the shift in 2018. Since then, he said, the trend is continuing. He credits increased drought conditions in the western U.S., which push the “dry line,” a boundary that separates moist and dry air masses and is a factor in creating severe weather. “The southern Great Plains are drying out,” Gensini said. “Elevated air is moving the dry line. The drought is pushing everything to the east…”
“Bugnado”. Okay, not as stupidly-terrifying as a sharknado, but scary enough. A ticnado would be even worse, for the record. Here’s an excerpt of a post (and video) at Narcity: “If you thought running into a swarm of insects was bad, you’ve probably never come face to face with a bug tornado. This month, The Weather Network captured footage of a vortex of pesky insects swarming parts of Ontario. In a video shared from Mississauga on May 12, hundreds of gnats can be seen spiralling in what appears to be a tornado-like fashion. A similar incident was captured at Point Pelee National Park on May 15. According to the Farmers’ Almanac, a “bugnado” is “simply a swarm of insects in the middle of a mating duel, where the male insect attempts to swoon the female…”
Cicadas Are Showing Up on Doppler Radar Out East. Speaking of serious bug swarms check out an article at Insider.com; here’s an excerpt: “The 17-year “Brood X” cicadas are hatching in such high numbers that they’re being picked up by weather radar in Virginia. “THIS is not rain, not ground clutter,” NBC meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts tweeted on Monday. “So likely CICADAS being picked up by the radar beam.” Kyle Pallozzi, a Virginia-based meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told Insider that Ricketts’ suspicion was “100%” true. Pallozzi said the NWS has a weather radar located in Sterling, Virginia, in the same region as the radar map that Ricketts posted, and explained that the beams the radar devices send out rise the further they travel from the machine...”
World Ocean Day 2021: This is How Climate Change May Alter 10 of the World’s Natural Wonders. ABC News reports: “Natural wonders around the world may be altered forever — or even cease to exist — if global temperatures continue to rise. Climate change is contributing to rising sea levels and more intense weather events, which will not only leave humans and landscapes vulnerable but also some of the world’s treasures as well. Norway-based outdoor guide company Outforia used research and predictions from a plethora of published scientific papers to illustrate what could happen to 10 beloved landmarks if drastic measures are not soon taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The company chose which landmarks to feature based on sites that mean “a lot to a lot of different people,” Carl Borg, founder of Outforia, told ABC News.
Atmospheric CO2 Now 50% Higher Than Pre-Industrial Levels: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The planet’s atmosphere held more carbon dioxide at its annual May peak than at any time in the last 4 million years, and 50% more than prior to the Industrial Revolution, NOAA reported Monday. Scientists said the rate of CO2 increase, fueled primarily by the combustion of fossil fuels, showed “no discernible impact” of any pandemic-induced slowdown. Atmospheric CO2 levels peak cyclically every May before vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere wakes up from winter and pulls carbon out of the atmosphere, but overall CO2 levels keep rising because humans keep pumping 40 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution to the atmosphere every year. “Reaching 50% higher carbon dioxide than preindustrial is really setting a new benchmark and not in a good way,” Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, who wasn’t part of the research, told the AP. “If we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need to work much harder to cut carbon dioxide emissions and right away.” (AP, Washington Post $, Axios, The Hill, E&E $, Bloomberg $, New York Times $, The Verge, Newsweek, Reuters, USA Today)
Earth’s Carbon Dioxide Levels Hit 4.5 Million Year High. Well that can’t be good. Axios has the details you should probably know: “The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has reached its annual peak, climbing to 419 parts per million (ppm) in May, according to scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Why it matters: It’s the highest CO2 reading since reliable instrument data began 63 years ago, but evidence shows it’s also a peak since well before the start of human history. The rate of increase showed “no discernible impact” from the pandemic-induced economic slowdown, the scientists found...”
Despite Pandemic, Level of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere Hits Record Levels. The Washington Post (paywall) has more perspective on CO2 levels: “Economies worldwide nearly ground to a halt over the 15 months of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a startling drop in global greenhouse gas emissions. But that did little to slow the steady accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which reached the highest levels since accurate measurements began 63 years ago, scientists said Monday. “Fossil fuel burning is really at the heart of this. If we don’t tackle fossil fuel burning, the problem is not going to go away,” Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said in an interview, adding that the world ultimately will have to make emissions cuts that are “much larger and sustained” than anything that happened during the pandemic…”
Arctic Sea Ice Thinning Twice as Fast as Thought, Study Finds. The Guardian has details: “Sea ice across much of the Arctic is thinning twice as fast as previously thought, researchers have found. Arctic ice is melting as the climate crisis drives up temperatures, resulting in a vicious circle in which more dark water is exposed to the sun’s heat, leading to even more heating of the planet. The faster ice loss means the shorter north-eastern shipping passage from China to Europe will become easier to navigate, but it also means new oil and gas extraction is more feasible. Calculating the thickness of sea ice from satellite radar data is difficult because the amount of snow cover on top varies significantly...”
Sir David Attenborough to 60 Minutes on Climate Change: “A Crime Has Been Committed”. Are well complicit, since we’ve all used fossil fuels and plastics derived fossil fuels? The companies that ran disinformation campaigns may have the most to answer for. Here’s an excerpt from 60 Minutes: “…Until recently, Attenborough’s films shied away from making sweeping declarations about the planet’s changing climate. That stance has changed. Attenborough said his film, “A Life on Our Planet” is his “witness statement,” and on 60 Minutes told correspondent Anderson Cooper “a crime has been committed” against the planet. “We’re both in broadcasting, if you’re going be telling something as though it’s true, you better be sure it’s true,” Attenborough said to Cooper. “So I didn’t say anything much about the world being in ecological peril until I was absolutely sure that what I was talking about was correct...”
Women Hurt More By Climate Causes, Impacts: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “New reporting highlights the disproportionate burden, caused at both ends of the climate change cycle, borne by women. In Minnesota, where Enbridge is seeking to build its controversial Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline, warnings from Indigenous groups over the link between the influx of extractive industry workers and sexual violence are coming to fruition, the Guardian reports. Crisis centers in the area are seeing the results, with one center saying it has received more than 40 reports from women and girls in northwestern Minnesota of harassment and assault from Line 3 workers. At least two Line 3 workers, both from out-of-state, have been charged with sex trafficking crimes. The impacts of climate change also disproportionately burden women, 19th* News reports. Women have a lower life expectancy than men after natural disasters and experts are calling for the Biden administration to focus its gear aid toward women because they are more at risk for violence, PTSD, anxiety, and other acute distress disorders after extreme weather disasters. With 70% of American women serving as family or informal caregivers, incorporating caregiving and childcare into disaster response is also critical. “The federal government could learn to listen to what is needed at the community level,” Dr. Alessandra Jerolleman, associate professor of emergency management at Jacksonville State University, told 19th* News. “There’s often a really strong focus on efficiency when federal dollars are being spent, and inefficiency tends to equal speed. And so it’s often much easier to render assistance to certain groups than it is to others. Unfortunately, how that seems to often play out is that upper middle class and higher get assistance a little more readily and other folks whose situations are more complicated get left out.” (Line 3: The Guardian; Disaster relief: 19th* News)